Scranton, Pa

Lewistown Woman Faces Prostitution Charges

Posted: November 21, 2023

On July 20, 2023, a 52-year-old woman of Lewistown, PA was arrested and charged with prostitution following an FBI human trafficking investigation. An operation conducted with FBI State College, FBI Williamsport, and Mifflin County Regional Police attempted to identify and locate human trafficking victims in Mifflin County through covert online chatting. In July, an FBI Task Force Officer responded to an online advertisement on the self-designated “hook-up” website, MegaPersonals. Law enforcement officers noted that the phone number attached to the advertisement linked the woman to the advertisement. She was arraigned before Magisterial District Judge Kent Smith on November 2, 2023 and a preliminary hearing is currently set for December 20, 2023.

The CSE Institute encourages Mifflin County to look further into the nuances of the situation to determine if the woman arrested was being exploited by a trafficker. While FBI State College, FBI Williamsport, and Mifflin County Regional Police claim to be conducting operations to identify and locate human trafficking victims, we are disappointed in the decision to charge the woman with prostitution. The practice of prosecuting people who are bought and sold for sex perpetuates the harmful ideology that people in prostitution are criminals rather than people who are exploited. It increases the traumatization and stigmatization of this population and creates even more barriers for victims attempting to exit “the life.” A single criminal conviction can serve as a massive obstacle to stable employment, housing opportunities, and much more.

Further, the CSE Institute encourages law enforcement to hold sex buyers accountable for the exploitation they perpetuate. Charging people with prostitution does nothing to eradicate the sex trade. It is the traffickers and buyers who perpetuate sexual exploitation and keep the commercial sex trade alive. The CSE Institute advocates for the Equality Model to combat commercial sexual exploitation. The Equality Model seeks to reduce the demand for commercial sex by criminalizing sex buyers and traffickers and decriminalizing prostituted people. The four pillars of the Equality Model are: (1) decriminalization of the person who is selling sex, (2) criminalization of sex buyers and facilitators, (3) educating the public about the harms of prostitution, and (4) funded, holistic exit services for victims of commercial sexual exploitation.

Combatting human trafficking requires an effort to identify and support victims, not arrest and prosecute those who are bought and sold for sex. We hope that law enforcement and district attorney’s offices will use their power to do justice for victims, rather than perpetuate their criminalization. The CSE Institute will continue to provide updates as this matter unfolds.

All views expressed herein are personal to the author and do not necessarily reflect the views of the Villanova University Charles Widger School of Law or Villanova University.   

Category: News

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